A Complete Explanation of the Google Analytics “Yellow Ribbon” Alerts

If you have been a long-time Google Analytics (GA) user, you must have encountered the “Yellow Ribbon” alerts while generating different reports in GA. Of course, most alerts are not hard to interpret. But in case the jargon throws you off, you always have the choice of clicking on the ‘Learn more’ link or contacting the GA support to know more about the corrective steps you must take to get rid of the alert. But how about a quick reference guide that clarifies the commonly displayed yellow-ribbon alerts in GA? That’s what this post is all about.

High Cardinality Alert

High Cardinality Yellow Ribbon Alert in Google Analytics

This Google Analytics yellow ribbon alert is displayed when GA is unable to process the report on ‘Unique Dimension Combination’ metric as intended. This occurs due to its reporting limitations. The free version of GA can only handle 50,000 rows per report and the paid 360 GA version can process only up to 75,000 rows per report.  So if the count of Unique Dimension Combination values exceeds these limits, in a day, GA aggregates the lower dimension values of this metric into a single row under an ‘Other’ header.

GA can also create (pre-aggregated) multi-day reports from Unique Dimension Combination values of any previous 4 days. The processing limit is set at 100,000 rows for free GA version and 150,000 for the paid 360 version. Hence if you request a report for more than 4 days of data, the odds of seeing the high-cardinality alert are high.

Filtered-View Alert (Multi-Channel Funnels Report)

Filtered user-based reports yellow ribbon alert in Google Analytics

This alert is triggered when filters are applied in your GA reports. Google Analytics warns you of inaccurate or incomplete analytics data if filters are applied in your user-based reports. For instance, if you have filters in a Multi-Channel Funnels report, GA filters out sessions and only displays a subset of the site traffic in the report, which can be erroneous and partial. So, exclude all the filters from your user-based reports that remove sessions and/or pageviews to obtain unfiltered reports that display accurate and complete data.

Data Collection Limit Warning for Free Accounts

Data Collection Limit Alert in Google Analytics

This yellow-ribbon warning is shown if you have a free version of Google Analytics and your website (property) receives more hits (interactions like pageviews or any other event or transaction that occurs on your website) than the allowed limit. When you violate this limit, you can lose access to your reports or may even lead to account termination. To get around this problem, you either need to upgrade to the paid version of GA, which is the Google Analytics 360 or send fewer hits to your property.

Collection of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) Warning

PII Warning in Google Analytics

Google takes their users’ privacy very seriously and has well-laid-out policies pertaining to the same, telling you how you can collect, use, and share PII.  If your Google Tags are passing PII to Google Analytics, you will receive this yellow ribbon warning in your Google Analytics account. Google always want to ensure that all their marketing/advertising partners are also in full compliance with their privacy policies.

In some cases, you may also receive breach notices in your email address if your Google Adwords tags are passing PII to Google. The PII warnings are triggered when you have inadequate data security while collecting sensitive user data, improper information sharing, misuse of personal information, or unacceptable use of cookies. Therefore, it is critical to take appropriate corrective steps at the earliest to avoid losing access to your account. You can learn more about “data collection and use” policies here.

Google Tag Tracking Warning

Tag Correctness Warning in Google Analytics

This yellow ribbon warning is displayed when your Google Tags are not firing properly. In this scenario, it is necessary to check the integrity of your tags, which can be performed by using the Google Tag Assistant. It is a Chrome browser extension that tells you whether your Google Tags are firing appropriately by allowing you to record all the events that occurred while a user visited on your site. You can then generate a report of those hits and verify if there were any errors with this tool. Learn more about verifying the correctness of your GA tracking code here.

Demographics Threshold Warning

Demographics Reports Threshold Applied Alert in Google Analytics

This yellow ribbon alert is displayed in any of the Demographics reports (under the Audience tab) in your Google Analytics account. This warning is triggered when Google Analytics applies a threshold on one or more of the dimensions of the demographic report, in which case the data is withheld. This happens when the instances of a particular dimension value are less than a certain value (for e.g. the number of female users or number of people below a certain age). To learn more about Demographics report and threshold, please check this article.

Wrap up

I believe I’ve managed to cover some of the most common Google Analytics yellow ribbon alerts that you can encounter while working with this analytics platform. Hopefully, this list should come in handy as a quick reference guide when you come across such warnings in your GA account again. If you know of any other yellow-ribbon warnings other than ones covered here, please do share it with us in the comment section, we will be more than happy to include that in this article.

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